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This review is from: In Search of Ruritania: The life and times of Ivor Novello (Paperback)
I had been looking forward to reading this biography of Ivor Novello, having read all the others that have been published over the years, but found it slightly disappointing as it really had little new information, other than perhaps a few more details from Mary Ellis and from Christopher Hassall's son. It was as much about the author as it was about Ivor, and I personally felt that the author had a very tenuous link with Novello i.e. an aunt introduced him to Ivor's songs when he was a child, and in recent years he had tried unsuccessfully to put on a production of 'Glamorous Night'. Instead, on a Tuesday afternoon in 2001, he put on a concert of Novello songs at Drury Lane, although in the Grand Saloon seating 180 people and not actually in the theatre itself. On this basis he was classed as a 'Novello expert' and so was engaged to advise during the making of the film 'Gosford Park'. I may be wrong, but I don't remember Ivor Novello being a major character in 'Gosford Park'....but maybe that's just my memory. I could not help feeling that the film was a tiger and the author was hanging on desperately to its tail.
I found it irritating that, having read so much about Ivor's life over the last 50 years, Mr Slattery-Davis seemed in some cases to deliberately take an opposing view to all the other biographers (many of whom knew Ivor personally), to portray him as being more difficult to work with, depressive, bad tempered and a bit of a control freak etc. Maybe this was just to give it a new angle? Its effect was to destroy some of Ivor's charm. I would also take exception to the author's view of Ivor that "Within ten years of his death he was all but forgotten, as if he never existed." An odd statement, as Ivor has not been forgotten at any point in the last 60 years. His songs and music are played all the time, from "Keep The Home Fires Burning" to "We'll Gather Lilacs" etc, and I regularly hear them in concerts and on the radio. In recent years Cameron Mackintosh renamed the Strand Theatre as the Novello Theatre. Even the pop world has its annual Novello Awards, which are much coveted. I could go on....
Overall this had the potential to be a much better book than it actually is. The paperback that I purchased has very poor quality photos, and some are wrongly captioned e.g. one picture of Ivor taken in 1929 during the run of Symphony in Two Flats is captioned "Ivor - circa 1940". Opposite is a picture of 8 people, yet the caption lists 7 names. I also find it very irritating when biographies like this don't have an index. You want to find an anecdote about a particular performer and you have no idea where to find it.
In a description of his visit to Ivor's home, Redroofs, the author mentions that "Ivor's presence" is still felt and that people have seen "an older man sitting in a chair". Ivor was only 58 when he died, and for someone who was idolised for his looks and tried so hard to remain youthful (playing a 26 year old when he was 46), I cannot imagine Ivor Novello coming back to haunt Redroofs as an "older man". If Ivor ever returns, you can be certain that he will look young and glamorous!
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Initial post: 29 Aug 2012 16:43:45 BDT
Mr. P. James says:
Have now had an opportunity to watch Gosford Park again, for which this author was the Ivor Novello authority. I was therefore astonished to see that the film had Ivor driving a car, when he was chauffeur driven everywhere in his beloved Rolls; characters referred to Ivor as a film star, when he had stopped being a film idol by this time and was known for his succesful stage plays, and I was aghast when - in the film - Ivor played a tune in 1932 which he didn't actually write until 1935....
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